It is an exciting time at VitalSource as Kathleen Hayes, a 25-year ed-tech veteran, has joined us as our new Director of Institutional Partnerships. Kathleen will lead our U.S. and Canadian higher-education efforts, for both VitalSource and Verba, to grow Inclusive Access and to accelerate affordability and the digital revolution in course materials. Kathleen has built a career driving affordability in course materials, coming from zyBooks, helping to improve learning through digital learning solutions, and prior to that, Verba, where she focused her efforts on providing tools for colleges stores to grow affordability initiatives.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in two- and four-year degree-granting programs rose from 13.2 to 17 million students (an increase of 30 percent) between 2000 to 2015. That number is projected to be 19.3 million by 2026.
This is great news as more students are investing in their futures. However, it comes with a tradeoff: rising cost of attendance and future student loan debt. Based on statistics published by the College Board, the average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 9 percent in 2016 over the five years from 2011-12 to 2016-17, following a 29 percent increase between 2006-07 and 2011-12.
One of the best things about my job is being able to go out and meet the faculty and administrators who are working to ensure all students have access to affordable course materials as part of initiatives to improve overall access to a college education. Even better than that is the opportunity to meet and talk to the students who benefit from the efforts.
I had such an opportunity last month at the University of Missouri, Columbia. There, we met with students, administrators, and faculty from the entire University of Missouri System about the program they have dubbed Auto Access.
I have spent my entire career working with college and university campus stores to promote access to affordable course materials for all students. The academic success of college students means a lot to me and helping them have the textbooks and other learning materials they need - when they need them - goes a long way in promoting that success. It is something I am truly passionate about.
And that’s why I’m excited about coming to work at VitalSource and continuing the work the team here has started and advanced with campus stores to enable student achievement. As the manager of campus store relationships for VitalSource, I will be working with campus stores across the country to ensure they have the tools to be successful in their missions to support student learning.
The “Inclusive Access” model is rapidly gaining traction by delivering high-quality digital course materials to students on the first day of class at a fraction of traditional costs. But as with many developing models, the consumer experience (for students in this case) is currently half-baked: students lack a single place to find options and information for their specific Inclusive Access materials.
So we’re introducing Verba Connect Portal, a personalized student hub for Inclusive Access.